This summer has been another season of extreme temperatures paired with a continued lack of rainfall. This combination makes it difficult to maintain a lush, healthy pasture for your livestock to graze. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy pasture through adverse conditions, based on your unique pasture variety.
Avoid mowing or grazing tall fescue during extremely hot conditions. Fescue growth halts under these conditions, meaning you could be left with a barren pasture. If you decide to cut fescue for hay during these times, be sure to leave at least four inches of leaf material to provide enough area on the plants for photosynthesis. If you have warm-season pasture varieties planted elsewhere, move your cattle to those pastures to avoid overgrazing and soil compaction.
Being a warm-season perennial, bermudagrass performs better during the hot summer months. However, adequate rainfall is an important factor for continual growth. If moisture continues to lack, be careful to avoid excessive traffic on pastures, whether by vehicle or animal. While more drought resistant than fescue, bermudagrass can still be expected to suffer during these tough summer conditions. Limiting reliance on grazing and supplementing nutrition when available can help protect your bermudagrass pasture.
Grazing alfalfa can be an effective solution to getting through the hot, dry summer months. As fescue, bermudagrass and other pasture varieties enter a summer slump due to intense weather conditions, a temporary move to an alfalfa pasture can be a beneficial step. This reduces grazing pressure on your grass pastures while providing your cattle almost twice as much protein compared to fescue or other grasses, along with saving you time harvesting the alfalfa for hay.
If you’re unhappy with how your pasture is performing in the heat, you may want to consider changing your seed selection. Some more heat- and drought-tolerant native grass options we offer include Big Bluestem, Indiangrass and Switchgrass. We also have a selection of pre-mixed blends designed to maximize the strengths of multiple seed varieties to nourish your livestock.